Duff ready for Nugent tussle

First published in Sport Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Burnley FC reporter

MICHAEL Duff would probably rather play alongside Charlie Austin than against him, but he goes toe-to-toe with another of the Championship’s most feared forwards tomorrow.

David Nugent was also a team-mate of Duff’s, when the Leicester City striker joined the Clarets on loan from Portsmouth during the Premier League season.

Defender Duff knows all about the Scouser’s strengths, and weaknesses.

“Nuge will be running around, no doubt cracking bad jokes,” he joked.

But after recording a first win in six games, and fourth clean sheet in 11 games under Sean Dyche, against Derby on Boxing Day, the veteran is experienced enough to know the Clarets need to get serious if they are to sustain that form – especially against ambitious Leicester City tomorrow.

“Nuge is a good player first and foremost, that’s the thing we need to watch,” said Duff.

“You get different types of centre forwards.

“Nearly every team has a good couple of centre forwards in this league.

“Nuge is one of those who has everything. He can run, he can head, he’s quick and he scores all types of goals.”

Duff was not involved the last time the Clarets took on the Foxes, when Nugent had gone 11 games without a goal.

It has come as no surprise to the Northern Ireland international that after ending his drought against the Clarets his old team-mate has gone on to score 10, including a hat-trick in his next game at home to Hull.

But he hopes that a clean sheet against the Rams, and first win in six games, will see the Clarets to build up a head of steam.

“We weren’t quite at it against Derby but we scored at vital times and we kept the clean sheet, which we feel like, as defenders, we’ve deserved more of them than we’ve got in the last few weeks,” said Duff.

“It’s frustrating. After every game you feel like you’ve lost, or you’re frustrated because you’ve not scored at vital times, which is so important.

“Sometimes you can feel sorry for yourself because you think the game owes you one.

“But feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to do you any good in this league.”

Instead, the Clarets are looking to set the record straight.

“I didn’t play at Leicester but I watched the game – we absolutely dominated the first half again and didn’t score, they came out and changed the way they play and it finished 2-1 to them,” he said.

“It almost summed up the way the season’s been, we played really well in the first half and didn’t do enough second half.

“We know what they’re about – they’ve got big players and they are in the top three or four in the league for a reason so it’s going to be a tough game.

“We’ve only lost one in seven now. With the performances we’ve had we’ve probably not got as many points as we’ve warranted, but if we can keep performing as well as we have done we’ll be okay.

“On Boxing Day we didn’t perform as well as we have been but we got three points and we got the clean sheet, so hopefully the performances and the points should start marrying together and we can string a few more results together.”

And things couldn’t have gone better for Duff on a personal note, as his first goal since April 2011 sealed the win over Derby.

“I don’t get enough to be honest,” said the 34-year-old. “That’s something that’s been labelled at me, mainly by my dad.

“When the ball goes in their box I can’t seem to get on the end of it but when it goes in our box I can.

“I don’t know what it is, but that’s why I’m not a centre forward.

“Every time the ball goes in the box Charlie’s on the end of it, or is somewhere in and around it.

“But I’ll enjoy it.

“It was nice that it helped us win the game as well.”

He added: “It’s a positive on all fronts; Charlie got his goal, we scored from a set piece, we kept the clean sheet and we got three points – it doesn’t get much better than that.”

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